Shows like Stranger Things and End of the F***ing World may attract cult fandom followings because of their uniqueness and allure. For example Stranger Things takes what looks like normal, everyday people at first glance and toss those characters into a bizarre situation. In the case of End of the F***ing World, based on my viewing of the first few episodes, it romanticizes running away and murder, something the average person normally would never consider, but in the realm of a television show, the viewer can fantasize it just as much as the characters do. The idea of being able to take a break from your day to day life, or imagine your dull in comparison life could be turned upside down in a similar way to the characters’ lives, could be what draws viewers in to this cult fandom. Also, the shows much be well written, have interesting characters, and a compelling plot in order for this fandom to grow, otherwise it never lose steam and quickly die off.
When it comes to my personal take on fandom, I believe media, be that television shows, movies, books, comics, even YouTubers, etc. can be a form of escape for many viewers. The lives of the characters and the worlds depicted in these forms of media are often seen as better than reality, and through this media consumption, viewers can escape from their lives even if only temporarily. This is what fuels fandom culture as a whole, specifically going “beyond the text” and the use of things like fanfiction, cosplay, fan made photo edits and fandom merchandise such as t-shirts, look alike props, posters, and many more. I strongly think this can be healthy and should be encouraged, to an extent. Liking something and wearing it on a shirt, or having a replica prop from a form of media you enjoy, shows your devotion to the media as well as what the media means to you. My personal opinion is that media should carry emotional weight, and have, to some degree, the capacity for the viewers to relate on a more intimate level. For example, a character may struggle with similar issues such as mental health as a viewer which prompts them to care more for that character and their world than the average passive, “mindless” viewer might, or it can be as simple as someone believing they belong to a certain Harry Potter house due to their character traits. This can lead to smaller involvement within a fandom when it comes to owning clothing or merchandise. When it comes to more involved forms of fandom such as fanfiction, it can be a good creative outlet for the viewer to think of themselves as a writer for the media which they consume, and add onto the media in a way which the real writers did not consider. I am of the belief that good production and storylines should leave holes. Not plot holes, of course, but holes where not every single second from beginning to end is told in detail to the viewer, and this goes for script writing, book writing, directing of films and television. This leaves gaps where the media consumer is not certain of every moment within a characters’ life prior to or after the events of the main media, which leaves more interpretation and room for viewers to draw their own conclusions. These holes are a good example of where fanfiction or other fan produced content could fit in.
There are some very blatant “red… lines” which should not be crossed when it comes to fandom, particularly what is touched on within the articles for this week. Being unable to separate the actor from their character is one of those things. The fact that Stranger Things actors Finn Wolfard and Millie Bobby Brown have to deal with fans “shipping” them as people, despite their ages and their characters ages, is simply not alright. Stalking actors due to one’s “devotion” to their content is also not alright, in fact, it borders on creepy and possessive. It definitely is unhealthy. This separation between what is real and what is not is crucial especially within a society where actors are put up on this almost perfect pedestal.
In regards to the toxicity of fandom in relation to toxic masculinity, Black Mirror’s USS Callister is a prime example. The main character, Daly, embodies what many would view as a hard-core fan of Star Trek parallel Space Fleet, and this fandom turns horribly toxic very quickly to the point of it entirely taking over Daly’s life as he abuses others into helping him fully immerse himself in the world. Once more, having action figures and collecting the media and hanging posters is all well and good, but there is a point, and Daly crossed it long ago. It is a satirical example of how so many popular forms of media both historically and in modern day are dominated by white male leads—Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, largely Marvel and DC’s biggest films prior to a few years ago, etc. Anything depicting characters other than this white male lead means, in their eyes, and in the words of Rolling Stones’ writer Jenna Scherer, that something is “being taken from them.” In the case of Black Mirror, however, this white male lead turns into the very antagonist that so many fandom members love to hate because of how they obstruct the protagonist from achieving their goal. Overall, fandom can be very beneficial—it can be an even greater escape from reality, a creative outlet, and a way of expressing one’s self when they can relate to a particular media. Or fandom can be toxic and unhealthy, for both those involved in the fandom and those responsible for the creation of the media the fandom is based off of.